Tag Archives: cancer stories

The Cancer Journey: An Unplanned Detour to Your Life

About the author: Jeff Ward is a cancer survivor, no, actually a thriver, a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, certified Cancer Coach, dad, husband, and lover of nature and an adventurous life. The mission of his heart-based coaching is to help and inspire those affected by cancer, particularly cancer survivors who got a wake-up call from their cancer, to move from surviving to living a thriving life. You can reach Jeff at his website at www.jeff-ward.com, or email jeff@jeff-ward.com.

Cancer has a way of sending us off the path of our normal lives. One day we’re going about our business, doing what we do to live a normal life. Then, through whatever circumstances and events, we learn we have cancer, and our lives take a major detour; totally unplanned, totally not welcomed, and for some, the path of our lives will never be the same. I know when I was diagnosed, my life took a sharp turn to a place away from what was until then my everyday life.

The following paragraphs describe the seven stages to the path that a typical cancer patient experiences. Some people may experience variations of the journey or minor stages not listed (such as denial), but for the most part, these are the major steps most cancer patients experience to some level. Caregivers go through similar stages, though with a different perspective.

This journey can also apply to those dealing with other life-threatening diseases or life-altering events.

  1. Innocence – This is the stage where everything is normal in your life, where there is indeed a sense of innocence, of a normal energy level. There is no sign of what is about to happen. You may have something not quite right that may warrant a doctor visit, but there is no hint of cancer at this point. Life is good. For me, there were no symptoms – just a routine blood test for a yearly physical.
  2. The Call – This is when you first hear the word “cancer”, perhaps after undergoing some tests. Your life is about to change and you feel it deep inside. You are entering a new world and have no idea what’s ahead. It’s like you are being forced off a cliff edge, out of your control. I almost fell off my chair when my doctor told me I tested positive for cancer. I did feel my like my life was out of control.
  3. Initiation – This is the stage where you are introduced to medical terms, tests, treatment etc. that you aren’t used to and not expecting. Your body seems out of your control. You feel bewildered, lost, physically fatigued from treatment and not sure what’s next. Physically you’re not the same. Talking with doctors, looking at treatment plans, etc. was entirely new and scary to me. I was very healthy pre-cancer.
  4.  The Pit – The Pit is the low point in the journey. You feel fear, anxiety, negative energy. You don’t know how you’ll get out of this, or if you even will. It is dark and lonely and unpleasant. You feel out of control on all levels – mind, body and spirit. This is also the place of greatest growth, where you need to let go of certain old beliefs or something that no longer serves you. Then allies and hope and something new can be welcomed in. I went into the pit fairly quickly after my diagnosis, as my dad had died of the same cancer years before.
  5. Allies – Allies are anything that provides support, help, sense of trust, or a sense of forward direction. They can be people, spirituality, things, etc. Allies are always there, but take hold in your life when you start letting go of old ways and let go of limiting beliefs from the Pit stage. As you rise out of the Pit into this stage, you begin to understand how you have changed from pre-cancer to now. Listening to those who cared about me help me to let go of money and practical concerns and focus on what was important to my healing.
  6. Breakthrough – This is a time when you have hope, when you feel like you have more control of your life, when things are moving forward. There is a renewed sense of hope and future here. You are starting to feel unstuck, that you are more in control of your life, and starting to do things that reflect that. When I started to heal from my treatment, and realized that I could come out of this ok, I started to feel more hopeful on beating cancer.
  7. Celebration – Imagine being on the medal podium, celebrating your achievement – this is Celebration. It is a place where you celebrate what you’ve been through, who you’ve become, what you can do from here. There is a sense of accomplishment, that the worst is over, and you’re a new person and have learned from and embraced what you’ve been through. You see a new you, a new life. There is hope and possibility from this place. When I got my follow up testing results and was found to be cancer free, I felt a tremendous sense of relief, and a sense that I’ve been given a new lease on life to live more powerfully.

Some of the benefits of understanding this unplanned journey include:

  • It really is a journey with twists and turns, not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually and mentally as well. There will be ups and downs.
  • Knowing where you are on this map can help you deal with some of the uncertainties and fears that cancer presents, so that you can live more powerfully through this experience
  • Being in touch with your raw emotions. Feeling and acknowledging (but not being stuck) where you are at deep inside is vital to your recovery.
  • You are not alone. Others have walked your path, and many more are on the wings ready to help
  • It can be a wake-up call to whatever you’ve been holding inside, to a new life
  • For most cancer patients, you will come out of this unplanned trip okay
  • You will learn about your authentic self, and perhaps be a changed person for the better

Healing, dealing with, and overcoming cancer involves more than just getting medical treatment. It also calls into play paying attention to the mind and spirit dimensions as well. While navigating the cancer journey is obviously unpleasant, it can be an opportunity to grow, and for those who survive, to push the re-set button to their life and perhaps be a changed person on a deeper, more authentic level.

So, where are you on your cancer journey roadmap? What have you learned about yourself on this journey? What will be different about your life? I’d love to hear your responses.

This cancer journey description is based on information from ©The Cancer Journey.

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MyLifeLine.org Announces Connecting for Cancer

MyLifeLine.org launched a new project this October, called Connecting for Cancer. The project was designed to honor MyLifeLine.org’s members, raise vital funds to support our mission and increase awareness about the programs and services offered by our organization to cancer patients, caregivers, family and friends. We chose the month of October to show our support for Breast Cancer Awareness Month and also to honor all people affected by cancer.

 Connecting for Cancer connects philanthropic businesses with cancer patients to match them with their greatest needs. All of the patients matched for the program are members of MyLifeLine.org and use our site regularly to update family and friends on their progress, treatment updates and overall wellbeing, as well as coordinate volunteers and raise funds for their medical costs. The goal of the project was multifaceted; the participating businesses made a donation to MyLifeLine.org to support our mission of providing free, personal and private websites to people affected by cancer. In addition, they donated their services to the patient they were matched with by MyLifeLine.org.

To read about the patient’s stories and more about the philanthropic businesses, visit the Connecting for Cancer website. You’ll hear about how Roberta Aberle, a featured blogger for MyLifeLine.org, got a new hair style from Harmony Salon, located in the Denver Highlands, as years of chemotherapy have left her hair in need of a makeover. The story of Kelley Gleason in featured as well, and how frequent trips to treatment facilities have left her car is need of help, and how Shortline Auto Group of Aurora, CO is donating new tires to her car. Another patient participating in Connecting for Cancer is Kris Pogue, who is connected to ClIintel, for meal delivery and professional family photography in honor of her brave fight with ovarian cancer. Our fourth patient in Connecting for Cancer is MyLifeLine.org’s very own, Tricia McEuen, in honor of her five year anniversary as a cancer survivor. Adjusting to her normal, Tricia was paired with Crestone Capital Advisors for financial advising and expertise to get back on track after her breast cancer diagnosis.

MyLifeLine.org is grateful for the participation of businesses in Connecting for Cancer and invite you to learn more about the project!

Connecting for Cancer MyLifeLine.org patients

Coach George Karl reflects on life after cancer

George Karl and his partner Kim VanDeraa used MyLifeLine.org during George's head and neck cancer experience. They continue to be supporters of MyLifeLine.org and Kim serves on the Board of Directors.

George Karl and his partner Kim VanDeraa used MyLifeLine.org during George’s head and neck cancer experience. They continue to be supporters of MyLifeLine.org and Kim serves on the board of directors.

This week’s blog post is by  former Denver Nuggets head coach and MyLifeLine.org supporter, George Karl.

It’s been 4 ½ years since I finished my Head and Neck cancer treatment. My experiences and interactions have been filled with incredibly talented people and organizations, amazing cancer miracles and some stories that are very mysterious.

First my health is on a strong recovery but as a cancer survivor staying alert and aware is the best way to stay a survivor. The fact of what you eat has become a daily journey and I try to feed my immune system better and better knowing our nutrition is the biggest key to better health and cancer survivorship.

Committing to finding ways to help navigate cancer patients in their journey has been Kim and I’s strongest advocacy in the last four years.  MyLifeLine.org and their commitment to the cancer patient and caregiver have blessed us. Kim serves on their board of directors and seeing them grow and become stronger has been a gift.

My belief is that we are on the verge of some amazing cancer successes. Cures, improved treatments and partnerships are all very close to some spectacular findings and answers. My only wish is we would find more unity and more teamwork to all the talented people, doctors and committed organizations that I’ve meet and talked with in the last four years.

I hope that we in the future can find more dollars and innovation for the aftercare of treated patients. I believe this has been an area that has been left behind and we need to gift the cancer patient more love after treatment. His or her hand still needs to be held and given guidance on what their bodies are going through and how to be strong and confident in finding answers to questions after treatment.

It has been a great 4 ½ years of learning, but I today stand amazed how much work is still to be done.  Cancer is a mutation and we must constantly work to get ahead and stay ahead of its changing personality.  From stem cells, bone morrow, integrative care, navigation, nutrition and many more cancer situations, I hope to continue to grow and find ways to help the cancer patient. Many cancer patients have become better and stronger because of their journey. I know I have!

GEORGE

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Healing Spaces

This week’s guest blogger is Roberta Aberle, a MyLifeLine.org member. Born in Rapid City, South Dakota, but raised in Fort Collins, Colorado, Roberta Aberle has been surrounded by cancer her entire life. Diagnosed with the rare cancer, Primary Peritoneal Carcinoma Stage IIIC, on Leap Day, 2012; after a total hysterectomy in 2009 was performed to reduce her risk for developing cancer, Roberta has been both a fighter and advocate for rare, sub-types of cancer. “I’d love to see other cancers reach the level of awareness and fundraising that breast cancer has with the Susan G. Komen Foundation,” she says. Roberta has been on multiple treatment regimens since her diagnosis in 2012, with the goal remaining to see some phase of remission. Her treatment has included clinical studies, surgery, intraperitoneal/hyperthermic chemotherapy, but has also incorporated many holistic approaches such as journaling, meditation, aquatics and nutritional strategies. Her primary goal is to not only reach remission but to use her experience to help demystify the cloak around cancer for caregivers by speaking honestly and authentically about the insights gained living the role of a cancer patient.

In my travels this week, it was a huge reminder of how radical the pace of life truly is. Especially in places of mass transit, like an airport, the flurry of people racing one from place to another is astounding.  I used to be one of those people.  My life revolved around the next trip, the next big project, the next deadline, the next …. whatever.  I didn’t sleep enough hours a night, I worked too many long days, in fact, at this time of day on Friday, you’d sometimes still find me chained to my desk.

My weekends were ruled by all the errands and “need to do’s”, I would often say it was as if my weekends just ‘evaporated’ before I found myself back at work on a Monday morning far too fast.

It’s exhausting to even write about.

Then I got my diagnosis and so much of that life came to a screeching halt.  Of course, it picked up pace with other types of activities; tests, scans, labs, treatments, etc. And before I knew it I was back living a frenetic pace.  I even worked some days before my chemotherapy because I had a few hours beforehand.  That’s a little extreme even I can finally admit.

For some reason, this week I realized that I cannot possibly keep up with my old pace now.  I am too worn out from all of the tests, labs and appointments, too fatigued by the treatments, too weak from the assaults on my body.

But rather than feeling discouraged by these restrictions, I understand their purpose.

I need to heal.  I have taken in about as much chemotherapy as a person can and I kept right on functioning to a degree.  I have been out of weekly treatments for barely a month and yet I keep asking myself when I am going to feel stronger and more energetic.

Talk about expecting too much too soon.

This week I stumbled upon a variety of ways to help myself heal in the most unexpected ways.  Whether staring at a long stretch of road or even waiting out airport delays; there is the opportunity to focus on healing.  We have the power to create our own healing space in the midst of whatever surrounds us.  It doesn’t have to be a place, it doesn’t require tons of effort nor does it have to consume a great amount of time.

Instead of getting sucked into the stride of others, the nuisances of public places, the inevitable down time that comes with any commute, job or nearly any endeavor these days, I let my mind drift to a mantra or literally just focused on the purity of the moment to avoid the headache associated with racing around.  You don’t have to be able to go to a spa or sanctuary to escape the busyness of life. You can escape into your own healing space.

In flight, scrunched into a window seat, the flight oversold, overhead bins burgeoning and the requisite crying baby in the seat directly in front of me, I focused on the plumes of clouds that we climbed through, marveling at their majesty. The billows stretched as far as you could see, a virtual ocean of white, formations crafted from the swirling and fluid mist. It was like flying through a piece of art. The beauty of it brought tears to my eyes. Those big tears that literally cascade from your eyes and saturate your face.  I found a space to heal.

At nightfall with the satiny feel of cool linen against my skin, atop a cushiony bed with the comforting smell of the night air wafting in the window brought another brief moment to reflect on healing.  Breathing in the scent of fresh-brewed coffee before turning on any technological gadget, yet another space to think about healing.

Woven in throughout the day, in the simplest of acts, it is possible to escape the rat race.

It doesn’t feel like an effort, it doesn’t feel forced, it doesn’t even feel like another thing I should make myself do.  It feels natural and welcome.  By sheer observation and trying not to contrive something else to add to my routine as a goal or a task, it is possible to just use awareness of your surrounding as a means to heal.  The colors, the sights, the scents, the patterns, the vibrancy, the sounds, the tastes, are all facets to appreciate in any situation.

All it takes is the recognition to pause, to find what is unique in every moment that can contribute toward healing and remind myself, “I am healing.  I am healing.  I am healing.”healing spaces

My Dad, My Hero – A Cancer Story

I will never forget April 25, 2013. I was representing MyLifeLine.org at a conference for oncology nurses, telling them about the free support services our nonprofit provides for cancer fighters and their friends and family, when I got a call from my Step Mom, with news that my Dad had just been diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer. My Dad had been experiencing a lot of unexplainable abdominal pain and while I suspected this would be the diagnosis, I was shocked, sad, scared, and numb all at the same time.

I spent the remainder of the conference educating nurses who came to the Mylifeline.org booth about our services, grateful to be keeping busy instead of dwelling on thoughts about my Dad. I was also comforted knowing one of them just might be taking care of him. My Dad loved his nurses.

When I did talked to my Dad after returning from the conference, he said “I want you to know that I am okay with this”; he sounded so calm. I felt comforted by his voice and he sounded just like my Dad pre-diagnosis.  After we hung up, my thoughts returned to the road ahead for him. I was sad and scared for what he was about to face with his treatment.

My sister and I were able to visit him in Florida a few weeks later. He was three weeks into daily radiation and weekly chemo treatments and doing remarkably well. His appetite was good, he felt good. I remember one night while we were out for dinner, he held my hand. I had tears in my eyes and kept my head down so he wouldn’t see. The last thing I wanted was for him to have to comfort me when he was the one who needed comfort. Thinking back, I am sure he knew and in the true role of a parent he was comforting me. The last time I saw my Dad, I hugged and kissed him good-bye three times. I told him to be well. I didn’t know that would be the last time I would see him.

My dad passed away on July 18, 2013 after being in Hospice for just a few hours. Nothing prepares you for what you will feel. I felt deep sadness. Sadness for my Step Mom, who must now live without her life partner and sadness that my Daddy was gone.  The man who supported me through all life’s ups and downs. Our relationship was not always perfect, it was only within the last decade that we gre closer and I’m so grateful we had that time together even though it was mostly long distance.

It has taken me some time to be able to write this story. I will remain forever grateful for the kindness and compassion everyone has shown me and my family around the loss of my Dad. I can only hope to have the opportunity to repay that kindness and consideration.  I will take this experience and use it to better serve those who come to MyLifeLine.org, whether they seek to give support to a patient or get support from friends and family.

I have the honor and privilege of serving MyLifeLine.org as its CEO and remain humbled by this opportunity to provide a solution for the communication needs that arise when someone is faced with a cancer diagnosis. Please consider using MyLifeLine.org. While you may not be able to control what is happening to you or a loved one health wise, you can control how you give or get support.  To those using MyLifeLine.org, I remain inspired every day by your courage and spirit and thank you for trusting MyLifeLine.org to provide a tool that will help you receive emotional support. I also thank you for letting me honor my Dad by telling my story because in my world, he was my hero.

 

 

Melissa Bowen is the current Chief Executive Officer for MyLifeLine.org and a regular contributor to this blog.

Living Life to Its Maximum – My Son’s Cancer Story

Today we welcome guest blogger, Michele Mitchell, a MyLifeLine.org board member who shares the story of her young son’s brain cancer journey, including some of his own reflections on the experience.

Every Thankful Thursday is an opportunity to reflect on feelings of thankfulness and meaningfulness.  However, nine years ago the idea of even trying to pretend to be thankful would have been next to impossible.  Now, I know an even deeper meaning of being truly thankful as a result of many experiences my son and I shared as we adventured through the land of pediatric cancer.  Nine years ago, my only son was diagnosed with a highly malignant brain tumor two weeks before kindergarten.  As most families were preparing themselves for new adventures at school, we were preparing ourselves for the storm of a lifetime that consisted of brain surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and countless doctor appointments.  However, it was amidst this very storm that we have learned to understand and feel the true meaning of being thankful.  There is no better way to capture this understanding than to share some insights from some of my son’s writings.

When Sean was in the 5th grade, he was asked to write about an event that changed is life.  His story was titled “Living Life to Its Maximum”.  He started his story by sharing his favorite quote by Babe Ruth: “Hero’s get remembered, but legends never die”.  Then, he proceeded by stating….”Shortly, after moving to Colorado a tornado came sweeping into my life: This tornado was called brain cancer.  The story does not end there.  Now, five and half years later, my life is full of memories and surprises.  I hope you enjoy this journey of memories and learn that all parts of life are never forgotten.  No one said life was ever easy, but hard times help us embrace and appreciate our friends and family around us.  Continue on, this story waits for no one.  In August of 2004, I was diagnosed with brain cancer.  I was very scared, confused, and felt tired a lot.  Both of my parents were with me during this time.  I don’t know how I could have got through without them.  They both still help me deal with the effects of the treatment and are very patient and understanding.  The storms of life can be very hard.  This storm changed everything.  For a few weeks I had been feeling very tired and dizzy.  My stomach hurt all the time and I could not think clearly.  After my brain surgery, I felt somewhat better at least for a while.  Then, radiation started and I felt horrible.  I went from 54 pounds to 39 pounds in one month.  Then, chemotherapy started: The only word to describe this is “horrible”.  I felt light headed, tired, nausea, and my body hurt all of the time. Through all of this, I learned to never give up when things seem impossible.  I learned that God has a plan for my life and he can turn even the most impossible situations around.  My life since then has been better.  My memories of childhood will also be good.  My trip to Disney World from the Make a Wish Foundation was great.  I will never forget the times my mom and I had there.  I will remember the time I have spent with my dad and how much time he spent with me and loved me.  I know how much my mom and dad love me, and how much God must love me too.  Those will be the things I think about most.

I have also learned that I never let a great thing pass.  I like to eat so much chocolate ice cream.  I will always remember my cats, they are so cute.  I will remember learning about owls; my dad says I look like one.  I will always have good memories of my parent’s houses.  I like to think about the first time I beat my dad at chess.  I like the peaceful quiet nights at my dad’s house playing video games.  I will remember how my mom was so caring for even the little things.  I will always remember my great room at my mom’s and all the good meals.  My friends at school will always be a special part of my heart.  I will never forget them.  Holidays are going to be great memories too.  Great food and family at Thanksgiving, and the great days we had at Christmas.  I will always remember how many people really cared for me and made me feel loved.

I look forward to living a life with a great family and a great passion just for living.  My early years have taught me to live every day, I mean really live.  I will work as hard as I must to achieve my goals.  Knowing that I have God on my side, I will never fear.  I know God has a purpose for me because he saved me from cancer.  As I get older, I know I will still feel young in my heart.  I want to continue to grow and learn.  I am excited to see the world and experience life in every way.  I will always be honest and treat people well.  I look forward to having my own family and being a great dad just like my dad.  I will have a good relationship with my children.  I will use my hard times to teach them great lessons.  I will teach them that God hears your prayers and it does change things.  I am so thankful for a chance at a great future.  I will make the most of this life and never waste it.  I will always be thankful for my friends, my family, and the lessons learned from this storm.”

Now at the age of 14 years old, my son is still teaching us about the true reasons to be thankful for every minute of every day.  Oh how I wish mylifeline.org had existed nine years ago; however, I am so thankful that today this organization can help so many families stay connected and feel the power of support as my son so beautifully articulated above: “I don’t know how I could have got through without them”.

Wiser, Stronger HER-2 Positive Breast Cancer Fighter

September is an important month to me because it was September 2nd 2009, when I was diagnosed with early-stage HER-2 positive breast cancer. Four years later, on September 30th, 2013 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted accelerated approval to a new drug, Perjeta. It’s a drug I would have used if it had been available then, and I’m proud to feel like I played a small part in helping this treatment become available.

I was nervous standing in front of the distinguished scientists and leaders as I testified in front of the FDA Perjeta review board, but I felt it was important for them to hear my story, to take a breast cancer survivor’s perspective into account when they made their decision. This is the story I shared:

On September 2nd, 2009, I found out that I had a 2.5 cm tumor in my left breast and after many doctor appointments, and tears, I scheduled a lumpectomy.  In October, 2009, after many hugs, prayers and more tears, I went into surgery.  My surgeon was 3 hours into the surgery, when he had to stop.  He was not able to get clear margins because there was too much tumor in the surrounding tissue.  When my family heard that a lumpectomy was not enough, they describe this as one of the most heart-wrenching moments in their lives.  When I saw my breast, my stomach dropped and tears filled my eyes.  A huge chunk of my left breast was gone.

After I came out of surgery, the first person I saw was my husband.  Steve was trying to be brave, but all I had to do was look into his tear-filled eyes to know that he did not have good news.  He held my hand and gently told me what I feared the most.  I would have to have a mastectomy.  I was stunned, frightened, and angry.  I had to come to grips with the fact that I would have to remove the part of my body that had nursed our children, that was important to my intimate relationship with my husband, and I would have to find blouses that didn’t have darts in them.

Five weeks after my lumpectomy and much discussion with my husband and my cancer team, I had a bilateral mastectomy.  When I had my first look after the mastectomy, I fell backward on my bed in tears.   I had no breasts, no nipples, no chest.  All I had were two long red scars where my breasts used to be.  In the span of 60 days, I went from living a healthy, carefree life to a place of fear, pain and loss.

My chemo cocktail of Carboplatin, Taxotere and Herceptin began December 2009 and finished in March 2010.  I then had 37 days of radiation.  My body had been through so much, I could hardly look at myself in the mirror.  I didn’t feel or look, like a woman.

It took my body two long years to recover.  In 2011, I had DIEP flap reconstruction, which required 4 days in the hospital and many months of recovery, but allowed me to regain my confidence, to feel like a woman again.  As much as I like how my new body looks, this is not my body. It is a reconstructed one.  I can never have MY body back.

If the Perjeta regime had been available to me, it might have been possible to shrink my tumor enough to avoid the radical surgeries that my body had to go through since it is the first drug to be FDA approved as a pre-surgical treatment.  Breast cancer survivors need a fighting chance, one that allows them to retain some dignity and self-confidence, and I strongly believe that having access to Perjeta will give them that chance, as well as the chance for the best possible outcome.

Cancer creates warriors and warriors need to be armed with all the ammunition they can to fight this horrible disease.  Perjeta can be the difference between that dark, scary place and one filled with hope. For the 25% of MyLifeLine.org members who are fighting breast cancer, early access to treatments, such as Perjeta, is critical.

I’m not on the payroll of a drug company, but I am grateful the FDA approved Perjeta for early stage HER2 positive breast cancer patients, so they can have access to this treatment option and become stronger, wiser, fighters.

 

If you’re a cancer patient or caregiver looking for your own place to write a blog or journal, you can sign up for a free site at MyLifeLine.org.

Cancer (KICK BUTT) Attitude

My cancer attitude began when I was diagnosed with Stage 2B Lobular breast cancer on September 2, 2009.  What is cancer attitude?  Cancer attitude keeps you fighting when you feel like giving up.  It keeps you laughing when you feel like crying.  It keeps you going forward when all you want to do is stop, go back and have a do-over.

With cancer attitude you fight, you cry, you laugh, you love, and you plunge ahead when you really don’t know what the outcome will be.  You trust, you care, you get mad, you hug, you rejoice in the steps forward, and you worry about the steps back.  You learn to live every single day, every moment, as if it were your last, because it might be.  Your family and friends hurt and cry and want life to go back the way it was, and then they hug, laugh, love, care, share, and keep you so focused on living, that your cancer attitude roars like a lion.  You don’t want to miss a single instant in the lives of those you love.

Cancer creates a life that is consumed by appointments, surgeries, chemo, radiation, blood draws, endless body and psychological changes (how the heck could I know that my fingernails would turn black and fall off or that every single hair on my body would disappear?!) but your cancer attitude is humble and amazed as you are surrounded by oncology nurses, doctors and volunteers who give so much of themselves to make one day better for a cancer patient.

With cancer attitude you learn to be in each day and not to look too far down the road.  You become one with those who lift you up and encourage you every single day.  You know they are fighting right alongside you.  You feel their love, prayers, hope, support, hugs – no matter if they live down the street, in another state or overseas.  You find out what you are made of and that you have more strength, determination and guts than you ever dreamed you had.  You become a warrior with serious cancer attitude.

As I celebrate 4 years since my diagnosis, I am so thankful for my wonderful caregiver husband, Steve.  He was there every step of the way with unwavering love and support, attending every doctor appointment, asking millions of questions and researching a few answers of his own, all while being scared himself.  My children, family and friends never stopped their support and encouragement – always willing to rub my feet, bring food, send cards or emails, flowers, hats, I could go on and on.  My cancer attitude is now one of strength and peace because of my outstanding support system.

That is why I LOVE working for MyLifeLine.org.  Being a part of an amazing and caring team of people who fight for cancer patients every single day is humbling and rewarding. I get to hear stories of diagnosis and treatment, I get to talk to friends and family and help them as they lend support to their loved one and I get to share MyLifeLine.org with doctors and nurses who are on the front lines of this battle. With cancer attitude, you surround yourself with a strong support system of friends and family who develop that attitude right alongside you.  I want to make sure no one ever feels alone on their cancer journey and with my cancer attitude, I am doing just that.

Tricia is the Director of Administration at MyLifeLine.org. We love her cancer attitude!

Welcome Jason Wagner, Our New Board President

 

From Jason Wagner, MyLifeLine.org Board President:

As the incoming Board President for MyLifeLine.org, I would like to share my personal connection with the mission and my hopes and dreams for what we will accomplish during my tenure. Without having faced it myself, I have seen the brutality of cancer up close.  Even more importantly I have seen victories, what I would call invigorated living, as a benefit of fighting this terrible disease.  I am certain there are exceptions, but the optimist in me wants something positive to come from something so horrific.

Connection

There is a long track record of cancer amongst my family and friends. My grandmother battled breast cancer, my grandfather battled lung cancer, my mother lost a fiancé to leukemia, and my distant cousin died at just 19 years old this May of metastatic melanoma. But the story that impacted me the most was my father’s experience with cancer as it exemplifies my deepest connection to MyLifeLine.org.

Being a hard worker was and still is a family requirement and my father modeled this his entire life.  His accomplishments were many.  He was an excellent student, an All-American high school football quarterback, a college football player, a medical student, and a member of the Air Force.  After his military service my father became a doctor, living the intense life of a medical professional, working sixty-plus hours every week for decades.  As a general and laparoscopic surgeon, he was held to a pretty high standard of daily intensity holding a great responsibility for people’s health, well-being and lives.  In addition to his surgical practice, my father was an emergency room doctor at more than one hospital well into his sixties, definitely on the front lines of stress and saving lives.  His professional day-to-day was so incredibly stressful that it left little space for emotional and personal availability at home, until his late 50’s.  That was the point when he became a patient for the first time in his life. He was diagnosed with an uncommon throat cancer which was a huge shock to him and the entire family.  At that time, there was no MyLifeLine.org or any online tools, but our family bonded together in support of his battle.  He was given a 20% chance of getting past his throat cancer.

Throughout his own surgery and treatments of chemotherapy and radiation, my father continued working both as a surgeon and an ER doctor.  The experience of being a patient and facing the probability of death focused him on his health, his personal relationships, and providing for his family (still working).  In the end he became completely emotionally available to everyone.  He was emotionally available to his patients in ways he had never been before, and while he was always an exceptional surgical technician, he became a much better doctor.  He was always a good dad, but through this experience he became an extraordinary father, emotionally available to his family in ways could never be before. Every day became an opportunity to live in the moment.  I saw my father change himself and adjust his priorities and it was amazing.

A crucially important piece of my passion and connection to MyLifeLine.org is very apparent in my journey with my father’s battles with cancer.  If missed, then you walk away from my commentary as just a personal experience with cancer and its impact of taking something from me as a person.  The most important piece of my connection to MyLifeLine.org is that I believe in my heart (although I can’t scientifically prove anything) human interaction and connections have healing power.   I believe counseling, group therapy and support from loved ones enhance the success of medical treatments. The idea of emotional and physical connections come through in stories you hear about married couples who die weeks apart.  In the example of my father, I believe he would have died from his throat cancer without the love and support from his wife, his four sons, other family and his friends.  I believe that his human connections assisted the medicine in extending his life and at a great quality of life too.  My father enjoyed several years of remission and then the cancer returned in his lungs.  Again he was fighting against the odds to survive and he beat them, achieving remission from cancer, continuing to work throughout the treatment and engaging fully in life with his friends and family.  A couple years later, the cancer came back in his brain.  This time he had to step away from work, but he focused on his treatment and his human connections.  He beat the brain cancer, and by then his battle with cancer had extended from his late fifties into his early seventies.  It wasn’t long before the cancer returned to his brain in a different form, and he opted to stop treatment and live as much of a quality of life as he could with his remaining time.  My father lived a great life, and through the love in our family, lived a better and longer life than he otherwise could.

While we didn’t have MyLifeLine.org throughout this experience, the service is exponentially more powerful than is physically possible to achieve in-person in the average busy life today.  MyLifeLine.org allows for the efficient and effective communication of a cancer patient’s journey, eliminating people’s guilt of not keeping in touch.   It allows for a higher quality conversation when people do actually have time to talk, spending that time talking about life and positive things.  I believe that medicine, meaningful personal connections with people, and the inspiration of living life fully all work together to give us the best experience we can have in the time we are given. I am thankful for anything I can do to further the cause and mission of MyLifeLine.org.

Goals

I am honored to be selected to serve the board of MyLifeLine.org.  My overall goal as incoming Board President is to carry on the legacy of the organization as one that is high-impact, free for users, and life enhancing.  What a small community of people have been able to create is incredible.  We are serving users in 181 countries, and in reality we could help people in every country (I hope we do eventually).  As a partner (in an accounting, tax, and consulting organization) I have never been able to achieve this, and if I can be so bold, I would say I want to play a part in an organization that is saving lives.  I believe, based on my own personal experience, that MyLifeLine.org is saving lives.  My hope for my tenure is to move MyLifeLine.org forward meaningfully.

I have many hopes and dreams for the organization.  A sampling of things I want the MyLifeLine.org community to accomplish include the following possibilities:

Technological Advancement – Everything begins and ends with the quality service we provide and nothing will ever replace this as the number one priority.  We are well down the path of a significant improvement to the MyLifeline.org technology and this will elevate the user experience.  I am excited for the roll-out of the new updates later this year.  My goal is to maintain a cultural mindset of advancement and continual improvement in what we do with technology, always in directions that serve and support those at war with cancer.

Outreach – We are serving people in 181 countries currently, and over 100,000 users.  That is amazing! My dreams would be realized if we can add a digit to the community we serve and cross the million user mark. MyLifeLine.org should be more of a household name and I hope we reach our dreams on this one.

Geographic Expansion – We have a great group of people in Denver meeting, working, spreading the good word about MyLifeLine.org, and they travel frequently to spread the word.  I hope we find another community who wants to meet, generate some buzz, sponsor some fun community events, and grow the physical distribution of the great work we do.  To anyone in any community who wants to start a MyLifeLine.org movement, please contact me — I would love to help make that happen.

We are a humble organization based in Denver, Colorado but we are serving the cancer community of the world.  Everyone is best served if our worldwide community is aware of and inspired to follow their hearts and support us generously.  We appreciate your time and interest in reading this message.  Thanks!